L.A. Stories: Fiction and Literature

Updated: August 5, 2023

There are as many L.A. stories as there are Angelenos - here are just a few of them.

Book cover for Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned
Mosley, Walter
Call Number: Ed.a

Through a series of interconnected short stories, Mosley tells the story of Socrates Fortlow, an ex-convict with plenty of demons to wrestle, struggling to bring justice to his Los Angeles neighborhood.

Book cover for Ask the dust
Ask the dust
Fante, John, 1909-1983.
Call Number: Ed.c
Arturo Bandini, an aspiring young writer, moves to a rundown hotel on Bunker Hill and falls for an unstable waitress in this classic portrait of Depression era Los Angeles. Charles Bukowski cited Fante's novel as an inspiration.

Book cover for The Barbarian Nurseries
The Barbarian Nurseries
Tobar, Hector

In an affluent Los Angeles community, a Mexican live-in maid, Araceli, discovers that her employers are gone, and she is left in a sprawling house with the owners' two little boys. So begins an adventure in today's Los Angeles, as Araceli takes the two children on a search for their grandfather Señor Torres.

Book cover for The Black Echo
The Black Echo
Connelly, Michael
Call Number: M

First in the author's very popular series about maverick LAPD detective Harry Bosch.

Book cover for California: A Novel
California: A Novel
Lepucki, Edan

Frida and  Cal left the crumbling city of Los Angeles and set out on their own, building a home out of the refuse of others’ dross in Northern California.When Frida becomes pregnant, she and Cal set out for the nearest settlement—a place guarded  by its own community’s secrets. Intricately-plotted and suspenseful, this Dystopian fiction asks us to question just how far we will go to protect those we love.

Book cover for City of Night
City of Night
Rechy, John
Call Number: Ed.a

Viciously panned by the Los Angeles Times upon its publication in 1963, Rechy's groundbreaking novel about the gay underground scene during the 1960s is now widely considered a classic.

Book cover for The Day of the Locust
The Day of the Locust
West, Nathanel
Call Number: Ed.d

West's novel about the bottom feeders, has-beens and hangers-on of the Hollywood studio system was a flop when it was first published in 1939 but has since gone on to become, along with The Last Tycoon, the epitome of the Hollywood novel. Coincidently, Nathanael West died in an automobile accident on December 22, 1940, one day after the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Book cover for Die a Little
Die a Little
Abbott, Megan E.

Los Angeles noir from a woman's point of view—this tale of betrayal and corruption smolders.

Book cover for Golden Days
Golden Days
See, Carolyn.

A strange and singular book that captures the excess, entitlement, Cold War anxiety, and New Age rhetoric of Los Angeles in the 70s and 80s.

Book cover for Ham on Rye
Ham on Rye
Bukowski, Charles
Call Number: Ed.c

Henry Chinaski grows up on the mean streets of Los Angeles, and embraces a life of horse-racing, liquor, and poetry in Bukowski's semi-autobiographical novel.

Book cover for Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice
Pynchon, Thomas

Pynchon has created a fast-paced tale with Doc Sportello, private investigator, off on one wild investigation leading into another. Set in the drug-hazed world of southern California in the early seventies, this work is one rollicking story and a vehicle for satirizing the foibles of modern life.

Book cover for Kind of Blue
Kind of Blue
Corwin, Miles
Call Number: M
A great first novel by a former Los Angeles Times crime and police beat reporter, Miles Corwin, who gets into the mind and motivation of detective Ash Levine. After the murder of a witness he was protecting, Levine resigned from the police department but returns for a special assignment and hopes that he will also be able to solve the witness's murder. Well-paced with wonderfully detailed descriptions of L.A.'s varied neighborhoods.

Book cover for L.A. Confidential
L.A. Confidential
Ellroy, James
Call Number: Ed.b
James Ellroy's wild tale of political corruption, police brutality, and tabloid celebrity scandals set in 1950s Los Angeles is not to be missed.

Book cover for The Last Embrace
The Last Embrace
Hamilton, Denise
Call Number: M

Former OSS spy Lily Kessler combs the streets of Los Angeles for a missing starlet, and finds more than she bargained for. Loosely based on the real-life disappearance of aspiring actress Jean Spangler, the book includes stellar period detail, an exploration of women's roles in postwar Los Angeles, and a cameo by a young Ray Bradbury!

Book cover for Less Than Zero
Less Than Zero
Ellis, Bret Easton
Call Number: Ed.b
Bret Easton Ellis's notorious chronicle of 1980s sleaze and decadence begins with the famous line: "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles."

Book cover for Little Scarlet
Little Scarlet
Mosley, Walter.
Call Number: M
The eighth installment in Walter Mosley's much-loved Easy Rawlins series is set in the aftermath of the 1965 Watts Riots, and combines a good detective story with an insightful portrait of African-American life in a Los Angeles divided by de facto segregation.

Book cover for The Long Goodbye
The Long Goodbye
Chandler, Raymond
Call Number: M Ed.b

Hard-boiled sleuth Philip Marlowe is in trouble with the police after he helps a suspected murderer flee the country, but his troubles don't end there.

Book cover for One-Shot Harry
One-Shot Harry
Phillips, Gary
Call Number: M

The year is 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr. is about to hold his Freedom Rally at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles; William H. Parker is Chief of the Los Angeles Police Department; John F. Kennedy is President of the United States; Pat Brown is the Governor of California; Gas is $0.29 a gallon and ground beef is less than $0.50 a pound. Harry Ingram is a freelance news photographer in Los Angeles. He also works side-jobs serving legal papers. Harry recently reconnected with an old friend, and fellow Korean War vet, Ben Kinslow.  This is a top notch mystery/thriller, providing a window to the past that clearly illustrates, simultaneously, how much things have changed and how much they remain the same in the city of Los Angeles.

Book cover for Play It as It Lays
Play It as It Lays
Didion, Joan
Call Number: Ed.b

The ravages of being an actress in Hollywood are brutally depicted in this novel that also captures a time period, the 1960s.

Book cover for Read Me, Los Angeles
Read Me, Los Angeles
Orphan, Katie
Call Number: 810.9 O74

"The book’s central focus is exploring the work of both contemporary and long-departed writers who made Los Angeles a central character within their stories."

Book cover for The Sentry
The Sentry
Crais, Robert
Call Number: M

Crais continues his Joe Pike series and delves into the mindset and past of this man of mystery, former LAPD officer and currently a private investigator. Joe encounters two Hurricane Katrina refugees in Venice, California who are being menaced by a local street gang. Joe moves to protect the duo but they are not exactly what they seem to be. Snappy dialogue and a quick narrative pace move the story along. This is a good beach read.

Book cover for Southland
Revoyr, Nina, 1969-
Before the Watts Riots, Jackie Ishida's grandfather owned a grocery store in the Crenshaw district. After his death, Jackie is plunged into a decades-old mystery and uncovers the neighborhood's complex history.

Book cover for A Student of History
A Student of History
Revoyr, Nina

Nina Revoyr admirably captures the idiosyncrasies of Los Angeles and its history through the character of Rick Nagano, a USC graduate student, whose desirable job has unforeseen drawbacks. While working for Mrs. W., matriarchal heir to an oil fortune, he has access to her personal journals and files that reveal an unknown history of the city. While assisting Fiona Morgan, a young socialite, Nagano learns more about the history of Los Angeles, which is interesting, but also proves to be more damaging to everyone.

Book cover for This is Where We Live
This is Where We Live
Brown, Janelle
A giddy satire about a young married couple, a musician and a filmmaker, who decide to celebrate the impending success of their careers by buying a Mount Washington bungalow with an adjustable mortgage rate.

Book cover for Thomas Mann's Los Angeles : stories from exile 1940-1952
Thomas Mann's Los Angeles: Stories From Exile 1940-1952
Blaumer, Nikolai
Call Number: 833 M282Bl

Nobel-winning German novelist Thomas Mann spent a decade in Los Angeles during and after World War II.  This is a look at Mann and the circle of fellow exiles he socialized with, including writers, artists, and musicians including Igor Stravinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Franz Werfel.

Book cover for Twilight : Los Angeles, 1992 on the road : a search for American character
Twilight : Los Angeles, 1992 on the road : a search for American character
Smith, Anna Deavere.
Call Number: 812 S6425-2

Anna Deavere Smith has chronicled modern American social issues in a unique format in plays that use verbatim interviews from people who were involved in major events. She did the same in this play which follows the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the acquittal of police officers who beat Rodney King.


Book cover for The White Boy Shuffle
The White Boy Shuffle
Beatty, Paul

A black "surfer dude" teen from Santa Monica is moved to urban Los Angeles, where he becomes a basketball star in this irreverent look at African-American history and culture.

Book cover for White Oleander
White Oleander
Fitch, Janet
Janet Fitch's intense first novel is about a teenage girl who ends up in the Los Angeles County foster care system after her mother is imprisoned for murder.

Book cover for Zeroville
Erickson, Steve.

Vikar, obsessed with movies and fleeing his strict Calvinist upbringing in Pennsylvania, arrives in Los Angeles on the day of the Tate-LaBianca murders. With a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun tattooed on his shaved head he wanders through Hollywood of the 1970s and eventually uncovers a dark secret of the movies. David Lynch meets Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.